After “The Summer of Madness”, I found myself often quoting Terminator 2: “I need a vacation.”
Resolve on getting a house was shaken, and to be honest, I was just over it at this point.
So I went to Disneyland:
As soon as I got home, and doing a Toyota convention at the Venetian, I booked a travel package to Pensacola, and was on my way.
But I had to stop in Dallas first. I couldn’t very well just do that (incredibly long) drive through Texas without seeing my sister and my friends, so that’s exactly what I did:
I invited Toby to join me, so down the I-10 we went, from Texas to Louisiana, briefly passing through New Orleans, then Mississippi, then Alabama, where we stopped at a Hardee’s, where I was reminded of the Southernness of our situation:
We ordered our meal, and the girl handed us our beverages. “Here’s y’all’s joinks”, she said.
I looked at Toby, who looked equally as confused, and then started to grin.
“What was that”, I said, hoping to illicit conversation.
“Here’s your other joink”, she said, handing the second Coke over.
From that point, all drinks became “joinks”.
As it became night, we finally pulled into Florida, then Pensacola Beach, which has one of the most iconic signs of my childhood:
As a kid, I briefly lived in Pensacola, you see, and I always went to the beach after school. I’ve returned since, and I always return to this place, my little piece of Heaven:
For the next few days, Toby and I vacationed in paradise, eating seafood, shell hunting on the beach, and exploring old fort ruins:
It wasn’t the only thing we saw while there:
Now, during all of this, my realtor kept calling me, trying to convince me to take back the original house (I told him vehemently “NO”), and kept asking me to sign things, review documents, etc., no matter how many times I told him and his secretary that I was on vacation. Finally, I just ignored the whole lot of them. I had to. They were driving me crazy, and weren’t going to ruin my vacation.
So Toby and I went to New Orleans.
New Orleans is a magical place. Even after Hurricane Katrina, it was still as lively and fun as ever, with voodoo, jazz bands, great food, beads, and a lot of booze:
But it was back to Dallas, where I spent time with more of my friends. We spent a lot of time laughing, and catching up on old times. I was in a much happier place being back since 2008, where each trip became progressively harder on me. Here, it was just a collection of loved people and memories. All part of restoring the “old” me that I felt had disappeared during the course of the last year.
But I also chose to return to my hometown… to say good-bye. I couldn’t do it the last time. I wasn’t ready, and it turned out that the time away….
Things change when you leave home for good. Certain threads are broken that can never really be replaced, and home… outside of a few lingering places, felt more like a museum of my memories.
Dad’s home had been bought, and the yard was overrun with monster trucks and scrap metal thrown about the lawn. I tried to see if I could access one of the backways to see the yard, but the brush had grown so thick in the following years, that I had no way in.
I decided it was time to visit the gravesite of my parents. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but I felt that I needed to. I did make a brief stop by Dad’s old workplace, where I ran into one of his close friends and colleagues. We talked for a while, and he told me that for months after Dad passed, he would drive by the old house until one day he finally realized that Dad wasn’t coming back, and that was no longer Dad’s home. He had to finally accept that it was time to let go, and it was time to move on. He looked at me sympathetically. “It’s time for you to let go of that house, Guy. It’s no longer your Dad’s.” I had once dreamed of owning that old home, and with all the house issues I had been facing, I grew more and more homesick for it, but he was ultimately right: I couldn’t go back. Not anymore.
I finally made my way to the cemetery where I stood in front of the marker bearing my parent’s names. I thought about the events that led me to this moment, and the aftermath. I reflected on the year and a half before it. My life. The fights over the estate. The accident. The failure in securing a house…. I never had time to properly grieve because no time could be made. I was always too busy. It was then that I suddenly recalled a quote from an older issue of a Batman story that had popped into my mind: “We mourn lives lost. Including our own.”
And in that moment, a year and a half of rage and loss and grief rose to the surface. I had held back for so long. I always had too many things to do. Such a tight schedule that I always had to maintain since Dad died. But the thing about not having a schedule is that you find yourself having time to deal with the “secondary things”. The things you have to put aside until you can deal with it later. But it was time then.
I found myself looking at my hometown differently. It was a reminder of where I had started. What defined me for so long. And now it was time to close the book on that part and start a new chapter. And so, in taking in a few final memories, I went back to my sister’s to prepare for my drive home, released, rejuvenated, and restored.
And it was fine. I had a lot of roadside oddities to explore along the way:
My realtor was jumping up and down to continue the house hunt, so I searched online for places that we actually would, you know, want.
It was the morning of my birthday that we discovered a new house. And with that, some luck began to change….